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August 24, 2011

VT Ski Movie Needs a Logo

Britton Vermonters Len Britton and Bradford Broyles (pictured) are using an online contest to find a logo for their planned ski movie. This is the movie project we reported on back in March -- not one of those "ski movies" that's basically just cool skiing footage, but a "comedy-drama" type of thing that happens to be set at a ski resort. Tremors director Ron Underwood is helming the production.

Broyles says the production will get ski footage at Sugarbush and visit "selected Vermont towns for the off-mountain portions." In keeping with the general Vermontiness of the project, its original working title was Woodchucks, but that's since been changed to Down Hill: The Movie.

From now through Monday, August 29, the filmmakers are inviting designers to submit logos incorporating that title at the crowdsourcing site They'd love to see some Vermont participation, says Broyles. Enter the contest here, or check out the 93 designs (and counting) entered so far. The ski-goggle-shaped logo seems to be doing well...


This is not a win for Vermont designers. My thoughts are summarized best here:

"For the designer, crowdsourcing demonstrates a lack of respect for the value of design’s full potential and places the lowest, rather than the highest, value on design service."
- Ric Grefe, Executive Director of the AIGA | the professional association for design

As I expressed to an attorney friend: I think if someone needs legal services, they should have 99 lawyers spend hours researching and pitching their case for free, then only the winner gets chosen, and thus paid for their professional work.

No, thanks, right?

This is detrimental to graphic design as a whole. Crowdsourcing shows a lack of respect for the time and skill that goes into creating a logo.

It's sad that in a state with thousands of talented graphic designers that these guys decided to use 99Designs. I agree with the above comments made by Michelle and Cody. Are people too lazy to do the research to find a designer? I am not sure if it's laziness or just a lack of respect for our craft, but I am certainly disappointed in this practice.

I agree with Michelle, Cody and Liz. This is not the right way to approach a logo. How can one create something w/o knowing anything about the movie? As we can all see from the submissions, the art direction is everywhere which illustrates my point of creating something w/o knowing anything about it. If this is an indication of their processes, this movie will surely fail.

Agree with the comments above. Good design is thoughtful and intentional, and worth paying for!

I'm not a designer but I have worked with many talented VT designers to create brand and marketing materials, and we have a wealth of great professionals here.

Taking advantage of folks by running a contest to get professional services for free is unethical, in my view. No matter your budget, you can find a real pro who will work with you on your project if you want to build a real relationship and accomplish something of value.

I'd like 99 movies to approach me for artwork & I'll choose the best.... ;)

Sure, my opinion is biased. I sell vs. commodity design every day. Think of commodity design as commodity music - Milli Vanilli, NKOTB, Baskstreet Boys. That type of trendy and commercial vision is what these folks are hoping to capitalize on in the short term, but it'll fade as people's interests move on, and they'll be stuck as a company that doesn't have a strong vision for who they are or want to be. The social media buzz they get out of this benefit them for a while, but building a strong brand is not about having a "popular" logo.

Let's address the negative comments about our online logo contest. As a producer on the film, we engaged multiple Vermont designers at market rate the last three months to design our logo. Unfortunately, after much work submitted and monies paid, we didn't end up with a product we all liked.

This 99designs contest is a competition, just as actors have to audition for a role. The cream will rise to the top. At the end of the day, our logo is a key brand and it's wonderful to have over 100 submissions of which to evaluate.

Calling it a "competition" is comical. Good luck! The submissions are terribly generic.

To use your analogy, you would be asking each actor to prepare, rehearse, and perform the entire role in front of a full audience, and then choose which one you would pay afterward.

The best, and certainly the ethical designers will not participate. This is not good practice for your project or for Vermont businesses. Please reconsider.

Taylor, last time I checked, multiple people competing for a prize (over $400 here) qualifies as a "competition". I encourage Vermonters to submit. We'd love to see a local artist submit win the contest.

Afterall, our goal of making the movie here is the ultimate form of "buy local" now isn't it?

To Bradford: Please remember people have paid good money to go to school for design. It is an art that is practiced and trained for many years.

If you hired several designers and did not get the design you were looking for, perhaps you should look at bettering your communication skills OR hiring the right designer?

It is so frustrating to see competitions like these. Sure, you are getting 100 designs, but is it quantity you are looking for, or QUALITY?

Bradford - I'm certainly saddened to hear you didn't get what you were looking for in an honest take on your logo. And I can't be too harsh with you for taking a new approach, it's just that crowdsourcing approach to design, while it may be inexpensive in the short term, will be less effective in helping you communicate over time. You make a film and you care about its quality, you should care more about how you want people to relate to it. It's certainly not the end of the world, but there are so many quality firms around that could really add value to your project in a way crowdsourcing can't touch.

I understand everybody's concern about crowdsourcing, but Bradford gave Vermont designers an honest chance and they didn't pull through. Give him credit for that. I would do the same exact thing after so many trials.

I read the brief, and to me it seems like they're doing a good job of communicating what they want, and by leaving things open for interpretation in 2 days they now have over 125 designs to choose from or use as a starting point (yeah, several are terrible, but several are decent too).

It looks like there's no getting rid of crowdsourcing, unfortunately, so instead of complaining about it and ganging up on individuals who utilize it you could either go to the source, or take advantage of it and win some contests on your own. If your design skills are good enough you shouldn't have anything to worry about, right?

I'm a designer myself and I worry about satisfying the clients I do have and the ones that they refer me to. How everyone else does their business is, well...not my business.

A ski team that "tries to prevent a corporate resort developer from wrecking their local mountain." Graphic design debate aside, I'm more concerned with why this movie isn't titled Ski Patrol 2? Please tell me you at least cast George Lopez in a cameo. I hear he's free these days.

Crowdsourcing exacerbates the problem I see time and time again with clients. They 'don't know what they like till they see it' okay fine, but they usually also don't understand that they are not their target audience, they are already emotionally invested in their project/product. Its sad to see design devalued this way time and time again.

Here's the other thing: if it's a contest, you are obligated to choose one of the designs submitted, whether you like any of them or not. You're allowing someone else, someone with no connection to you or your film to make a statement about your film. You really believe that's the best way to go about this?

"You're allowing someone else, someone with no connection to you or your film to make a statement about your film."

They're under no obligation to actually use the logo. Read the rules.

Thanks for letting us know about 99designs, Margot!

Yes, they have to choose a design no matter what, but do they have to use it for the movie? No.

And if they don't, then it's their loss. If they find one they like, good on them and congratulations to the designer who stepped it up.

Flatlander is correct when he/she said, "Its sad to see design devalued this way time and time again."

Crowd sourcing to me is also an indication of our economic trouble. The reason this site exists is lack of design jobs. Business today has changed. The human connection and a solid handshake are dieing traditions. :(

I would assume that there is some kind of lack of communication between client and designer(s). I am hard pressed to believe that there aren't any Vermont freelancers or agencies that can produce a suitable logo for this project. Should the Vermont design community as a whole take offense to actions of Len Britton and Bradford Boyles? Probably.

As my friend Michael said above... would a talented and ethical designer participate? I sincerely doubt it.

Not only have we neutered so many of our country's markets with laughable amounts of outsourcing, we now take it a step further by crowdsourcing; commoditizing creativity, and turning critical business decisions into popularity contests.

We all may be barking at a brick wall here, but I would hope that Len and Bradford decide to revisit the idea of employing one of Vermont's many talented freelancers or agencies, as opposed to leaving Vermont's design community in the dust for a cheap, detached solution.

Oh gosh, here's some great reading on this topic, as well. Now I'll shut up.

I'm really surpised at the blanket negativity and bashing in this thread. Really people?

This kind of bashing usually happens where people feel threatened or defensive.

I hope your idea serves you well and it works out on your behalf. I think it could generate interest, curiosity. Maybe some absolute unknown will put together something original, unique and effective.

I wish you luck with your project as well.

"would a talented and ethical designer participate? I sincerely doubt it."

What does ethics have to do with it? By what possible interpretation is this kind of thing "unethical"?

Threatening to mediocre designers, sure. It's painful to see a gravy train that you've been riding grind to a halt.

I find it unethical in that it mainly targets unemployed/underemployed designers and students who are simply looking to get any money for the doing any work and hoping that it helps them get their name out there. $400 is not market standard for a logo design as far as I am aware, most logo design/branding strategies have higher price tags. I worry too that students who are doing this in an effort to make a name for themselves may be damaging their careers as reputable design may be reluctant to hire those who participate in these types of practices.

Supporting artificially inflated rates is not unethical. Supply and demand is a real concept. Things are worth what they sell for by definition. If I can consistently pay someone $20/hr to do what you do for $100/hr, and they're as good at it or better than you are, then guess what - that work is worth $20/hr.

"most logo design/branding strategies have higher price tags"

That's because this kind of thing wasn't prevalent before. Things change.

"reputable design may be reluctant to hire those who participate in these types of practices."

Why? Careers like Design are supposed to be based, almost exclusively, on how good you are. Do you really think that any design shop is going to take a pass on a kickass designer because he cranked out a couple of logos for $400 in his spare time?

Re: Jimmy

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Things change, and you'll either adapt and learn how to embrace those changes and make them work for you, or you'll just sit there and wish things were like how they used to be and get left behind.

Going the traditional route didn't work for these producers, so they are trying something new. I applaud.

This is a weird thread.

First, the movie...I agree with Bungalow Benchly who said that this movie ought to be titled Ski Patrol 2. Actually, it should be Ski Patrol 3, considering Out Cold should have been titled Ski Patrol 2: On Snowboards. Producers, are you even trying to be original? Gimme a break.

Speaking of titles, why Down Hill: The Movie? Isn't it a bad sign if you have to remind the audience that they are, in fact, watching a movie? A bit redundant, no?

As for the graphic design debate, I don't really see the big deal. It's the free market at work. I'm guessing all the people opposed to the idea have jobs or steady freelancing gigs, but for students or recent grads who want to break into the industry, this could be a good way for them to build a portfolio. (Besides, if the producers don't want to pay for professional work, they won't get professional work. That much is clear from looking at the submissions so far.)

One last question: Why does a movie need a logo, anyway? Logos are for products and brands.

Much of what is being said above, on both sides of the argument, has merit. It sounds like there's an acknowledged "roll of the dice" going on. It's in response to needing an alternate, less expensive way, of finding a logo after failed attempts. Hearing that THREE attempts were made to "go local" and that none produced leaves me wondering what part of the process failed. The constant in all three of these attempts was the client.

I wonder why this approach has (crowd sourcing) has taken hold of the design industry if not for the lack of understanding about how good design happens. Wouldn't most of us think it ridiculous to find a doctor or lawyer in the same way? I'd suggest that in these cases we generally know and likely have a measure of what "poor" service would result in. Also, we clearly understand what it takes to be an expert in these areas. As a designer I'm continually in education mode. But that's a good thing. The more people know, the more they see these design sourcing sites for what they are.

Sites like "99Designs" provide me with good anecdotal stories that SUPPORT my value; not undermine it. 3 months after utilizing one, my cousin received a cease and desist letter from the company whose logo was being infringed upon by his "cheap" one.

My biggest concern doesn't stem from feeling threatened. It's that there are designers out there going this route to get work. Why don't THEY value their contribution more?

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